Hello, Golden Globes Red Carpet — We Missed You

OK, it was mostly virtual. But watching stars dress up again was actually a whole lot of fun.

Forget the Zoom shirt; welcome to the Zoom evening gown. Also the Zoom tux.

If the Golden Globes red carpet wasn’t exactly the red carpet we were used to, nor was it the dressed-down stars-in-their-jammies-pretending-to-be-just-like-us reveal that marked the celebrity-packed fund-raisers of the pandemic past. Instead, the first of the big award shows of 2023 gave us the hitherto before unimagined … home red carpet.

Turns out you can only keep the Hollywood-fashion industrial complex down for so long. But this time, the sight of stars in their finery while in social isolation seemed less like the mercenary marketing play of old, though there was obviously some of that. (Witness the deluge of next-morning emails that landed from fashion, jewelry — and hair care! — brands touting their moments.) Instead, it was more like a statement of belief in a new day and an understanding of the value of vicarious escapism.

The red carpet as a phenomenon has had an increasingly bad name. First, thanks to the revelations around Harvey Weinstein and the abuse of power in Hollywood, symbolized in part by the objectification of women-in-gowns. And second, because of what seemed the cynical relationship between brands and celebrities, in which the latter (and their agents, managers and stylists) increasingly auctioned their appearances to the highest bidder, rather than the one whose taste they most admired.

But the pandemic has provided something of a reset, washing away some of the worst excesses of the manufactured Hollywood runway and allowing the pure pleasure of dressing up to bubble through. It was, after all, the reason everyone loved to watch those entrances in the first place.

As Laverne Cox said during the preshow segment as she posed in what she called “a standing Zoom,” the better to show off her regal red gown by Thai Nguyen, “we should have a moment.” And if not now, when? So she, and the rest of the nominees and presenters, proceeded to provide one.

Even if, as Elle Fanning acknowledged while channeling the silver screen of old in ice blue bias-draped Gucci, the back crisscrossed by jeweled straps, it existed only for the walk from kitchen to living room.

Maybe because it existed only for the walk from kitchen to living room. That’s what made it so effective; made it seem human, rather than calculated. It was the sight of Regina King’s dog, curled up very happily in its bed that gave her “entrance” in a futuristic silver-and-black Louis Vuitton dress an added fillip of emotion. Or the Bernie Sanders cutout visible behind Cynthia Nixon’s head as she sat patiently surrounded by family.

There were holdouts, of course: Jason Sudeikis in a tie-dye hoodie; Bill Murray in what looked like a golfing shirt. But even Jodie Foster, curled up with her wife and dog in a pair of black and white silk Prada pajamas, was channeling more of a Stork Club vibe than brushing-my-teeth-for-bed.

Also in Prada: Carey Mulligan, beaming in from a hotel in London where, nevertheless, she had put on high heels “for the first time in about eight months” to go with her duchesse satin gown, and Julia Garner, looking very Lysistrata luxe in ivory and black goddess drapes.

The mermaid gown was back, but in an entirely new way, thanks to Viola Davis and her magenta-gold-and-blue African print Lavie by CK number. So was va-va-voom power, in the form of a glinting one-shoulder Saint Laurent on Lily Collins, with a cutout at the hip; and Andra Day’s halter-neck ivory Chanel. So was the LBD — see Shira Haas in strapless mini Chanel with a chiffon train, Amy Poehler in sequined Moschino and Tina Fey in a Versace tuxedo dress (the first of three outfits she and Ms. Poehler each wore as hosts).

And so was the fairy tale frock, on Kaley Cuoco in strapless silver and Amanda Seyfried in coral with a stole of flowers shrouding her shoulders, both by Oscar de la Renta; also Rosamund Pike in a ruby tulle Molly Goddard confection.

Instead of clichés, such styles suddenly seemed like long-lost old friends. Hey! So nice to see you again.

Indeed, red was the color of the night — also seen on Salma Hayek Pinault in Alexander McQueen and Maria Bakalova in princess-style Giorgio Armani (well, if anyone just came to the ball, she did) — perhaps in a subconscious nod to the absent carpet itself. If you can’t walk it, wear it.

Or go over the rainbow. Green came through in Anya Taylor-Joy’s plunging emerald Dior slither and Cynthia Erivo’s sculpted lime Valentino, straight from the January couture runway. Yellow, courtesy of Dan Levy’s bright lemon Valentino suit with gold sequin turtleneck and Jamie Lee Curtis’s plunging sunshine silk. And purple, in Angela Bassett’s befeathered high-slit Dolce & Gabbana.

It was Jane Fonda, however, receiving her Cecil B. DeMille award with a powerful speech about change, who summed up the night with a white trouser suit straight from her closet, a nod to her decision in 2019 to stop buying new clothes and, given the meaning of the white pantsuit in current political culture, her own history as an activist. She looked elegant while she looked to the future.

And thus the human desire to get dressed up, once again on display despite everything, was one of the biggest winners of the night.